Shawn G. Kennedy, The New York Times, October 29, 1994
Twenty years after angry tenants went to war with the owner of one of the Upper West Side’s grandest apartment buildings, a peace settlement was reached yesterday, ending one of the longest rent strikes in New York City’s history. The owner gave up the building, the Belnord, and the tenants, many of whom can barely recall a time before their struggle, won a pledge from the new owner that the building would once again have hot and cold water full time, enough workers to keep it clean and a fresh paint job for its dingy exterior.
Even in a city where landlord-tenant disputes are woven into the fabric of life, the battles at the Belnord were epic. Since the mid-1970’s, tenants in the landmark building– which occupies the full block bounded by Broadway, Amsterdam Avenue, and 86th and 87th Streets–and their landlord, Lillian Seril, have waged shrill warfare against each other.
In scores of lawsuits and formal complaints to housing officials, tenants charged that Mrs. Seril’s stinginess with her repair budget had caused the ornate Italian Renaissance building to deteriorate to a dangerous and dilapidated state. The complaints ranged from toilets that would not flush to lurching elevators and a leaky roof.
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“We are taking something of a risk. We have asked the state to dismiss the penalties. We are withdrawing all of our litigation and every claim for everything imaginable. We are cautiously optimistic that the new owners will be responsible landlords.”Thomas Vitullo-Martin, executive director, Belnord Landmark Conservancy